Saturday, August 11, 2007

Joe asked in the Comments section whether these posts from La Vanguardia's reader forums are typical of Spanish thinking and, after thinking about it for about five minutes, my considered response is: I think so.

I pointed out catastrophism, belief in conspiracies, and knee-jerk hatred of the United States as the errors in thinking in the posts I reproduced. I think all three of them are pretty common, though not universal, in Spain. Keep in mind that some people may suffer from one or two, but not all three, of these mental pathologies.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the Europeans who support the United States do so for the wrong reasons.

There are some people in Spain who actually believe that America is an imperialist warmongering hyperpower, but this is a good thing because Americans are white, sort of European folk keepìng those damned Arabs in line. There are a few who are ultra-libertarians--I'm pretty libertarian myself, but within reasonable limits, I hope--who actually believe that America is the anti-welfare state where those who can't compete are ruthlessly crushed, and this is a good thing because Ayn Rand said so. There are also some who really believe that America is a Christian theocracy, and this is a good thing because divorce and abortion are not permitted there. (I've actually been subjected to this argument from a pro-American Spaniard who really wasn't very smart at all.)

I guess when we come down to it, a variation of the 80-20 rule probably holds true here, as it does in so many cases. (You know, 20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of the beer that is drunk, and so on.) Probably wherever you go in the West today, 80% of what 80% of people think they know is bunk. Most people are pretty ignorant and badly informed (not that this makes them bad people or less worthy); hell, remember that by definition 50% of people have a below-average IQ. I figure this is true everywhere in Western Europe and the US, and I'll bet that in countries where the people are less educated and their access to information is more limited, those percentages are even higher.

Anyway, here come the pro-American posts, after a story on Gaddafi's son's admitting that the Bulgarian nurses were tortured with electric shocks:

"Tired of Hypocrites": Electrical torture is habitual in Arab prisons, just like rape and the amputation of fingers, nails, and even eyes. But nobody cares about this. The entire horde of false "progres" is so obsessed with the US and with Israel that they have no compassion for the Arabs.

If an Arab tortures another one for nine years, it isn't news; if an Israeli or American soldier slaps an admitted terrorist then this is a crime against humanity! It's the same as ever, you don't give a damn about the Arabs themselves, you just use them because your war is against the United States or against Israel, not in favor of the Arabs.

"Aroundworld" (posting from the US): I support 100% of what you say. Have you noticed that nobody is giving his opinion around here?

"Mithridates": I'll give my opinion! And I absolutely agree with the above, that's enough of defending the alleged innocents who are really responsible for the atrocities that are happening, with cold blood they say that a woman has been subjected to electric torture---I'm sick of the 'moros'!!!!!!!

"Maitechu": What did you expect? Many of the gentlemen who write in are Arabs.

"Toni": There are those who take advantage of any little story to attack Bush, the US, and Israel. Those who have expressed their opinions so far are right, differently from those who do so only to work out their phobias (the Americans and the US) and fixations (Bush, the Israeli army).

"Juanelees": The truth is there is no government in any Islamic country that has even 1% credibility. And enforcing sharia law, that's just crazy.

"Gerard": We are making an Alliance of Civilizations with the torturers...we must comprehend them, they're other countries, other cultures, they want the same time, we are destroying Israel...and it will be the end of Europe.

"Catañol": I unconditionally support "Tired of Hypocrites".

My view: I agree with "Tired of Hypocrites" as well. He is clearly both well-informed and concerned about the Arab people. However, "Mithridates" mixes good arguments (torture is wrong) with racism (he clearly doesn't like 'moros,' which is a racial slur for Arabs in Spain.) "Juanelees" exaggerates; Turkey, Malaysia, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are all Muslim countries, and have fairly decent though imperfect governments. Also, "Gerard" is just a bit catastrophic himself. Anyway, flawed as some of their thinking is, there are some folks over here in Spain who are pro-American and willing to speak up.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Those wacky commenters at La Vanguardia's website are at it as usual! Check out these pearls of wisdom:

After a story on the European stock market:

The USA should be quarantined by the world since it is a cancer that must be removed. Today that country is no longer a model for absolutely anytning except for the systematic violation of human rights and basic rights, besides being an endemic disease for the rest of the world.

After a story on the European Central Bank:

...the increase in interest rates and their "effects" on the economy (a price increase for housing, to enrich some and impoverish others). Are there any fools who think this is not an accident? There is a plan drawn up by the big fish and if you like it or not, that's what we're going to get.

We are approaching the edge of the abyss.

Now I get it...because of all this with the PBN (sic; he means BNP, the French bank) funds, are we Europeans going to have to pay for American debtors?

(From a commenter in Miami) Yes, Europe is paying for the fall in the American Subprime (sic), and what is worse, here in the USE a very strong crisis is coming, the collapse of the real estate sector, contagion to other sectors, a lack of consumer confidence, that tsunami will reach Europe in a few minutes, goddamned gringos!!! VIVA EUROPA, IT'S MUCH BETTER THAN THE USA

I really believe things are getting worse. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Until our system of values changes, when human values are what comes first in the world, I do not see the light in this dark tunnel. It is the end of the world.

After a story on Bush calling on Musharraf to allow free elections:

What? The spurious president of the USA calls for free elections? Will he leave his puppet in disgrace? Does he need one whose hands are not dirty?

Let's hope that the manipulator, and all his Western democratic acolytes, will respect the free and fair results. As they did in Algeria and more recently in Palestine.

Should we start with free elections in the USA?

How can that mental midget Bush call on his Pakistani hitman for free elections? Free as in Iraq, where they "elected" the current puppets who are "governing"? And will he call on his figurehead in Saudi Arabia for the same thing?

Free elections in the USA? Only millionares can run. What a fool you must be to speak of Yankee democracy. Go on, silly children, pay your mortgage without complaining.

The plan is simple. Pakistan calls an election, the Islamists win democratically like Hamas in Palestine, and the US will have its excuse to bomb the north of Pakistan without problems.

After a story on the Berlin Wall:

So we don't forget the Berlin Wall, we build walls in Ceuta, Palestine, or the Rio Grande in the US...before so they couldn't leave and now so they can't wall fell but others are being built.

After a story on Hugo Chavez, from a commenter in Los Angeles:

Hugo Chavez is a leader in all of South America. South America has been enslaved for more than 500 years by the imperialists like Spain, the United States, France, and others. Now they can't do it because the nationalists won't permit that slavery any more.

After a story on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing:

What is the US waiting for to apologize to Japan for this genocide? The Germans have done it, apologizing to Israel for the crimes of the Nazis. Every time a US president visits Japan he should kneel and pray at the monument to the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The current president could have done it since he is such a religious believer. And they should apologize for the massacres in Central America and Latin America and the coups d'etat financed and managed by the CIA (the family jewels). For Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan too. For the slavery financed by the Anglo-Saxons and also the other European powers. Have I forgotten anything?

After a story on a US antiterrorist offensive in Baghdad:

In a neighborhood in Baghdad! That's as if it were in a neighborhood of Vienna or Madrid. You can imagine what happens when there is a massive attack on a neighborhood where the majority are innocent civilians, women, children, and old people, and also youths who might be "enemy combatants," a euphemism invented by the USA in order to massacre civilian populations.

Note 1) the belief in conspiracy theories 2) the catastrophism and 3) the rabid anti-Americanism. But guess what? Some non-Yankee haters have finally spoken up! We'll bring you their comments tomorrow.
I put up two new posts on Hard Country, a Junior Brown set and a Hayseed Dixie set. I love Junior Brown. I don't understand why the rock fans and the Stevie Ray Vaughn followers aren't into him. Hayseed Dixie are hilariously funny the first time, and then the joke gets a little old, but check them out anyway.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

News from these here parts: Fairly serious political crisis in Navarra. Backstory: In the regional election, the PP, the Socialists, and Basque nationalist coalition Nafarroa Bai split the vote so that no one party could form an absolute majority. After weeks of negotiations, the Navarrese Socialists finally cut a deal with NaBai, but Zap's central Socialist party vetoed it, causing the Navarrese Socialist leadership to resign. As a result, the PP, the largest vote-getter, will govern Navarra from the minority.

In the wake of the blackout, there are still some 150 electrical generators (each of which uses some 200 gallons of diesel fuel a day) scattered around the streets of Barcelona filling in for the gaps in the electrical grid. The generators are noisy, running at 90 decibels, and the people who live near them are royally pissed off. Supposedly they're going to be able to remove most of the generators in September, but Barcelona's electrical system won't be back to normal until February 2008.

The RENFE (Rogamos Empujar Nuestros Ferrocarriles Estropeados, Please Push Our Broken-Down Trains) commuter-train system has been breaking down nearly every day; this morning three different train lines were down because a lightning storm last night hit some transformers. RENFE has claimed that many of the incidents in recent weeks were due to sabotage, though they haven't filed any charges against anyone. Presumably the saboteurs would be from the machinists' union, which as usual is at odds with the company.

The other thing the locals are pissed off about is the motorway system, which is designed to handle normal traffic fairly well but which stacks up beyond belief when the massive flood of vacationers all leave for their holidays at once. The highway south through Tarragona was jammed up last weekend to the point where it took drivers five hours to pass through the bumper-to-bumper atasco.

And the airport, which has had an awful lot of delayed flights and lost luggage complaints recently.

Small bit of good news: A Belgian woman cave explorer got caught 600 meters below ground for three days in a cave in Navarra, but they finally rescued her alive and well.

The Odyssey marine exploration company has sued the Spanish government for harassment; you'll remember they found $500 million worth of gold and silver aboard a sunken ship, and Spain is claiming 1) the money is theirs because it was a Spanish ship (Odyssey says it was a British ship) and 2) the money is theirs because it was found in Spanish waters (Odyssey says it was found off the southwest coast of Britain). Spain boarded and captured an Odyssey-owned boat as it was leaving Gibraltar on July 12. Said minister of culture César Antonio Molina, "We will defend our patrimony, no matter where it is, with every means."

In August, everybody in Spain goes off on vacation. Everybody. Including politicians. So Catalonia's most powerful lovebirds, Communists Imma Mayol and Joan Saura, are in charge of both the Catalan regional and Barcelona city governments this week. Since regional premier José Montilla is on vacation, interior counselor Saura has been left in charge of the Generalitat, and with mayor Jordi Hereu on vacation too, second vice-mayor Mayol is in charge of the Ayuntamiento. Prediction: Something disastrous is going to happen and they're going to screw it up really badly.

La Vanguardia's lead editorial today is on how badly telecoms and computing engineers and technicians are needed around here, so if you're looking for work and know something about that, try Barcelona.

FC Barcelona young forwards Giovani Dos Santos and Bojan Krcic are looking extremely good this preseason. They're both only 17, they'll both be on the first division squad this season, they'll both see some playing time, and if they don't get hurt they may well be starting in a couple of years. I don't think the Barça has given either of them human growth hormone, as they did with Messi.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The comments on La Vanguardia's website are more fun every day. Their new design allows readers to add comments after every article, not only in the opinion section but also in the news section. Most of the people adding comments are completely nuts, and a large percentage are anti-American. I will bet this feature does not last long.

Check these out.

After a story on the Russian bomb that fell in Georgian territory:

A Russia unwilling to be what it really is, governed by a ruthless man (in a short while some heir of his will be just as frightening), is convenient, with pro-Western ex-Soviet republics supported by the Stars and Stripes (remember the warm welcome of Mr. Bush in Tiflis not long ago) that add up to an unresolved dispute in Ukraine, American bases in the East, the War for Energy in Asia...what is the result? Of course, an explosive cocktail. Someone will have to intervene, of course.

After a story on the Taliban threat to take more hostages:

Who doesn't kill? If the Taliban does that, well, the governments that say they're democratic also kill silently, when a country like Spain supports a dictator like Obiang, that is killing a country, when the United States supports a coup d'etat in Chile killing an elected president, that is killing too. All the regimes that are friends of the United States, France, and Spain kill, are corrupt, and are repressive, but since they are friends they say nothing.

After a story on possible US attacks on jihadis within Pakistani territory:

The US did not intervene in Europe out of the goodness of its heart! It was to implant their system and control the Soviets, a problem that has lasted until today but without Communists. The Marschall (sic) Plan worked thanks to the terrible exploitation of the countries of the Third World that also has lasted until today. Transferring what was stolen there allowed Europe to build what we have today!

Bush the butcher, certainly with the approval of his pals Blair and Aznar, has found another excuse to satiate his thirst for blood. When will he be tried for crimes against humanity? Or can he do and undo everything he wants? Why is the UN so tolerant of him?

Bush, Blair, and Aznar have their hands stained with blood!

They can't go around arming Bin Laden to fight against the Russians and then call him a terrorist, arm Iraq and say that its president is evil, or invade a country in the name of freedom without UN approval in order to get its oil.

If they make a mistake and kill a few civilians, the ones that survive and their relatives and friends will become new, completely justified terrorists. They should stay at home, since they have enough problems over there.

After a story on six foreigners' free Tibet demonstration in China:

The farce of the false ONGs financed by the imperialists in order to interfere with the Olympic Games has begun. They will all fail. The Chinese people can't be fooled, and are more united than ever with their Communist Party. The 21st century belongs to China, no matter how much the Yankee and European imperialists and their servile NGOs don't like it.

After an article on the anniversary of Hiroshima:

It is a good thing to remember the brutality that our species is capable of. It is a good thing to remember the immorality of an empire like the USA that, just like 60 years ago, is capable of bombing itself (9-11) in order to continue terrorizing the world (the Middle East) and keep its economic and military hegemony.

After an article on a skirmish on the Korean frontier:

If the USA didn't stick its nose in there, none of this would happen.

Fitst: Get the 30,000 NORTH American soldiers out of there. Second: North Korea renounces nuclear arms. Third: Open the frontier and declare mutual peace between the two countries (they are always at war). Fourth: Begin mutual commerce WITHOUT USA! Definitive goal: The reunification of both countries into the same people.

After a story on a terrorist attack in Iraq that killed 40 people:

The blame belongs to George Walker Bush and his running dogs, Blair and Aznar!!! The big profiteers of all this are Haliburton (sic), Texaco, Exxon, Shell...Every time we stop at a gas station we should think about how much blood is filling up our tanks.

After a story on the US army losing thousands of weapons in Iraq:

Since they're such imbeciles, the Yankee aggressors could give some "weapons of mass destruction" to the Iraqi forces, who pass it on to the patriotic resisters. That way the insurgents can clean up their country of the human scum that have invaded it.

After a story on Al Qaeda announcing it is proud of the March 11 bombings:

Al Qaida is an invention of the puppeteers who govern the world in order to justify to public opinion the great American salvation from international terrorism, and in that way have all the world under their power.

Al Qaeda is an American creation in order to have an excuse to invade countries with oil, which will be the most important source of wealth in the next fifty years.

After a story saying the US Congress had authorized wiretaps without a court order:

The elite of millionaires that controls the world has taken one more step towards controlling the citiznes. With the excuse of terrorism they allow themselves the luxury of tapping your phone legally, and they can even take you to a secret prison without even charging you and torture, all of it within "legality." This elite is installing a new Inquisition.

After a story on a terrorist attack in Baghdad that killed eleven people:

The Americans don't impress me in questions of war. They only did the great brave action of killing off the Indians to take their land, who fought with arrows, kicked the Spanish out of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to take them over themselves, and a few little battles during the two World Wars, not much.

After a story on a US military court's 110-year sentence for a soldier who committed rape and murder in Iraq:

It's a smokescreen. These guys don't give a damn about the girl, her family, and the rest of the Iraqis. They went there to do that, loot, rape, and murder.

It's curious that a country so much in love with the death penalty has decided not to apply it to a guilty convict. Is it related to the fact that the victim wasn't a young white girl from Wyoming?

Why hasn't the genocidal president of the US who ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki been tried? Or the genocidal president of the US who attacked Vietnam and caused so many deaths there?

The USA is certainly the country of freedom, since you can carry a gun to defend yourself against attacks. This is proof that justice and the authorities do not function and cannot guarantee the safety of citizens, so they have the freedom (the obligation) to take justice into their own hands if necessary. The USA has a curious concept of justice.

This is one case that we know about, because there is no doubt that the USA saviors of the world have committed more atrocities of this sort. We're not talking about the wars they start in third countries in their own interests, because then all their leaders should be in The Hague, which they do not want to recognize because it's not in their interest.

Every day we see the lawbreaking and murders these "saviors of the world" commit. Don't they have the death penalty? Then kill him, fuck it, kill him! Aznar and his buddies are embarrassing, saying these are the saviors of democracy. This was repeated 10000000 (sic) times in Vietnam. A demented people.

Do we know anything about the 600,000 Iraqis killed after the invasion? Have charges been pressed against Bush and his accomplices for starting a war with lies, mass murder, stealing oil, torturing civilians, and laughing at international law?

These are all posts from the last two days.
I put up another set of videos over at Hard Country, this time classics from the Seventies. Check it out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

There have been a few unfounded and ignorant comments, demonstrating total ignorance of the American and world economies, saying the United States spends so much money going around starting wars and killing people and generally not minding its own business the way we used to before World War I, that we don't have any money left over to keep our bridges from falling down.

They're wrong.

If you do something easy like google "US budget 2006" and then look at the very first link provided, which is the White House's Office of Management and Budget's official budget report, you get this:

United States GDP 2006 $13.865 trillion
Of that:
Corporate pretax profits $1.324 trillion
Wages and salaries $6.109 trillion
Other income (presumably rent, interest, capital gains, etc.) $2.722 trillion

Federal government receipts 2006 $2.273 trillion
Outlays $2.613 trillion
Deficit -$341 trillion

Outlays by function 2006
Defense $513.9 billion
International affairs $38.9 billion
Science, space, and technology $24.0 billion
Energy $1.3 billion
Natural resources and environment $30.9 billion
Agriculture $28.6 billion
Commerce and housing credits $7.7 billion
Transportation $70.8 billion
Community and regional development $20.3 billion
Education, training, employment, and social services $89.0 billion
Health $268.0 billion
Medicare (health care for the retired) $351.3 billion
Income security (welfare) $358.8 billion
Social Security (pensions for the retired) $550.0 billion
Veterans' benefits and services $68.9 billion
Administration of justice $43.2 billion
General government $18.0 billion
Interest payments $204.4 billion
Total $2.613.3 trillion

That is, the US spends 19.6% of its federal budget, and 3.7% of its GDP, on defense.

Note also that a great deal of non-defense government spending on education, infrastructure, welfare, and the like is done at the state and local level and does not show up on the federal budget.

Some groovy politically correct bits of federal spending:

$3.2 billion, an increase of $382 million, to continue to expand the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
$4 billion, an increase of 8.5 percent, for Federal housing and social programs for the homeless, including $1.4 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants.
$1.2 billion for international food aid, including a new initiative to provide $300 million as cash assistance, allowing emergency food aid to be provided more quickly to address the most urgent needs.
$74 billion over 10 years for health-insurance tax credits for low-income individuals and families that will ultimately help 15 million families purchase affordable health insurance.
$5.6 billion for the National Science Foundation’s vital science, education, and basic research programs, an increase of $132 million.
$260 million for the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, to help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil and create a new generation of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
$28 billion increase for student aid programs through 2015, including the retirement of the Pell Grant shortfall, an increase in the maximum Pell award by $500 over five years, and additional benefits to student borrowers, helping more than 10 million needy students cover the costs of college.
$603 million more for Title I to provide grants to improve education in low-income communities and support NCLB reforms, a total increase of $4.6 billion, or 52 percent, for Title I since 2001.
$3 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion, to expand the Millennium Challenge Account for foreign assistance, to encourage sound economic and governance policies in the developing world.
La Vanguardia's comments section has become very interesting; it's the new home in Spain of America-bashing. Check out these self-righteous ignorant fools who have never read a single book on the history of the Second World War chiming in on the Hiroshima bombing. Interesting that none of them mention Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, the sack of Manila, the Bataan Death March, the POW camps, or the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

So far there are four comments. Here they are in their entirety.

What hypocrisy. Thinking that those poor people were literally flattened by a nuclear bomb dropped by the country that is now trying to prevent the rest from having them. The only country barbarous enough to drop a nuclear bomb on the civilian population is the United States of America. We should never forget it.

So this guy is in favor of Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons. Brilliant.

When the United States bombed two civilian populations with two weapons of mass destruction, a giant parenthesis that has not been closed yet was opened in history. The atomic bomb did not stop the Second World War, but rather originated a new era dominated by the forces of terror. The United States should apologize and commit itself to eliminating any future possibility of a repetition of the criminal acts being commemmorated today.

Gee, I dunno. I thought the Japanese stopped shooting at us after we dropped the bomb. That most certainly did stop the war. And, of course, no mention that, say, Germany or Japan or Russia should apologize for, I dunno, STARTING the war in the first place. Or any mention that Spain itself, and its Communist-Anarchist led Republican government, deserves a fair share of the blame for the destabilization of Europe in the 1930s.

It's a good thing to remember, in order to ask ourselves, who had and has weapons of mass destructions? How many hypocrites, liars, and Judases are walking around?

Plenty of them in Western Europe and the Third World. But Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, the Japanese militarists, and the systems they established, are all happily dead, and the Marxist-Communist-leftist movement died with the Soviet Union and its slave states. Thanks to, of course, the atomic bomb.

Marvelous antinuclear principles: NO POSSESSION, NO PRODUCTION, NO CIRCULATION THROUGH OUR COUNTRY. Wouldn't it be a gift of life and intelligence if all countries adopted them? It's a dream; maybe someday...I join in the homage of the Japanese to their dead. NUNCA MÁIS!

I'm up for abolishing nuclear weapons as soon as we abolish human evil. Oh, wait, that might take a while.

I will pay no homage to the Japanese dead in World War II, and neither will the Koreans nor the Chinese nor the Filipinos. I am sorry that civilians died, but they died because their country attacked its neighbors and tried to make all of Asia its slaves. If Japan and its allies had won the Second World War, or if the Soviets and Maoist Chinese had won the Cold War, these fools would not be complaining about American nuclear weapons. They would be laborers in German or Russian factories (and not too concerned about minor issues like Catalan language rights, since not getting executed would be much more important to them) if they were lucky enough to actually be alive now.

Friday, August 03, 2007

From the comments on La Vanguardia's website about the Minneapolis bridge collapse:

That's the thing about "neoliberal" policies: they reduce taxes in order to increase business investment and consumption, then they reduce them again because the state must be reduced to the minimum and everything must be left in private hands, and then they reduce them even more to make the millionaires' lobbies happy. New Orleans was flooded because its levees were made out of cardboard and the bridges are collapsing because there is no money for infrastructure.

Instead of fixing the bridges, they keep building the wall of shame along the Mexican border. More typical arrogant American behavior.


If there was a report two years ago showing structural deficiences, someone is responsible for the bridge collapse. Let's see if the USA responds quickly with the LAW, or maybe they'll be let off because the budget wasn't big enough since it wasn't for starting a war or going around killing people.

I understand the Americans less every day, and the current government of that country. Do you remember Caterina (sic)? Well, the poor people of that state are still waiting for the aid promised by their disastrous president, but they say everyone gets what he deserves. For me they can all go to hell (al carajo).

Things go on in every country, but a country as rich as the USA should spend more money on these things, but what they save on that and on social welfare, they spend on weapons to be the most powerful country, kill whoever they don't like, and if one dies they say he was giving his life for their country, a medal, the anthem, and see you later.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Disaster in Minneapolis. I can't believe anyone survived a 60-foot fall into a river with cars and pieces of bridge falling all around. Barcelona: Infrastructure breakdowns can happen anywhere. Our blackout was very inconvenient, but nobody died. TV3's site is leading with this story.

The Pat Tillman story has finally hit the news over here. Andy Robinson gets page 6 of La Vanguardia to speculate that the Pentagon ordered Tillman to be fragged by his own unit because he was going to meet with Noam Chomsky. How utterly senseless and irresponsible.

On page 4 La Vangua runs a very disturbing photo of the feet of five men dangling from a gallows in Iran yesterday. Seems that they were hanged for opposing the Islamist regime. 16 people were hanged at the end of June for crimes including adultery and homosexuality. But Europeans only protest when the Americans give the injection to a convicted murderer.

Zap is in Barcelona today to try to assuage la furia catalana over the blackout. Reading La Vanguardia between the lines, I get the idea that what has a lot of people around here pissed off is that Barcelona has lost its traditional competitive advantage over Madrid. Only thirty years ago Barcelona was the industrial center of Spain, and by far the wealthiest city. Now Madrid's metro area is 50% bigger than Barcelona's, and Madrid benefits from the economic switch away from industry and toward services and information more than Barcelona does. Quote: "The citizens are looking at a mirror of themselves that is very unlike the Catalan economic and social advance that was the locomotive for all of Spain."

Bergman and Antonioni croaked. That's a shame, of course, but Bergman movies bore me stiff and I've never bothered to see any Antonioni movies.

FC Barcelona is off on a preseason tour of East Asia to play three exhibition games, for which they will pocket a cool two million euros each. Some of the players have sounded off, saying that going on tour is not the best way to prepare the team for the regular season. What I would have said if I were club president Joan Laporta is, true, this is not the best way to prepare the team, but it is an excellent way to earn six million euros with which to pay you guys, so stop bitching.

Laporta's father-in-law is mixed up in a new business scandal. Mutua Universal, a Barcelona workman's-compensation mutual insurance company, is in trouble for allegedly embezzling money from the Spanish National Health, and Mr. Father-in-Law is the chairman of the board. He was in trouble back in 1999 for insider trading, but the National Court threw out the case.

The cops have run more than one thousand Romanian gypsies out of the San Roque district of Badalona. They've been arresting them for dumping garbage and defecating in the streets, hauling away unregistered or uninespected cars, and closing down illegal apartment rentals; they shut down 150 apartments where more than 1500 persons were living. So I suppose they'll move on to Santa Coloma or Hospitalet.

They've started octopus farming down in the Ebro Delta. I guess this is good news if you like octopus, and bad news if you are an octopus.

And guess what? They're holding Europe's largest gay festival here in Barcelona. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend LoveBall, as it's called. They should change the name to Bareback Mountain. Marc Almond is going to play, and there will be a "leather party" (original English). Can't wait. I bet a lot of viruses get passed around. The guys who sell poppers at the alternative lifestyle discos are going to have a great week.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It's August and so there's not a lot of news, which is usually a good thing. We've been going out to the pueblo every weekend, where we fart around, walk the dirt roads with the dog, and go to the pool. It's nice out there, hot but dry, and if it's too hot you go down in the basement, which is basically a cave. It hasn't been really hot yet in Catalonia; we haven't had to use the air-conditioner here in Barcelona.

We're going to London for a week in mid-August, and we'll take the train to Bath and spend two days and a night there. We'll be staying with our friend Elisabeth, who lives near Muswell Hill way up on the north side of town.

Political fallout from the blackout hasn't finished yet. Minister of industry and former Barcelona mayor Joan Clos has taken a lot of heat for saying there was nothing really wrong with the system of electricity distribution, while the rest of the Catalan Socialists have been sniping at the electric companies for their alleged lack of investment. Since Red Eléctrica is controlled (not wholly owned, but the state has the largest block of shares) by the central government, Clos obviously has to defend the performance of the Zap cabinet, and if that means he has to contradict the Catalan Socialists, then he will.

There are two big fires burning in the Canaries, one on Grand Canary and the other on Tenerife. 12,000 people have been evacuated. The fires haven't affected the tourist areas along the coasts, so no worries if you're traveling there.

La Vanguardia says 1) telecommunications engineers are badly needed in Catalonia, so if you know anything about that come here and look for a job 2) thieves have already stolen hundreds of meters of the electrical cable lying around the streets in order to sell the copper 3) Woody Allen has finished filming in Barcelona and has gone off to Oviedo 4) more than 53,000 people in Catalonia are on the National Health's waiting lists for surgery. One of them is my mother-in-law, who has cataracts; they did one of her eyes back in June, but they aren't going to do the other one until October. 180,000 Catalans are awaiting diagnostic tests 5) they're letting out the Vall d'Hebron rapist, who committed 16 rapes and did 16 years in jail. La Vangua says this has created "social alarm" 6) the Spanish guy who won the Tour de France is under suspicion as a possible doper because of his connection to the "operation Puerto" case 7) Spaniards spend €285 million a year on counterfeit brand-name products.